Monty Panesar went wild, whooped and screamed with joy, ran right to deep backward point, racing with his arms flapping, clapping and dancing with delight — he had landed the biggest blow of them all, he had trapped Sachin Tendulkar LBW.
India, chasing 380 for victory, were reduced to 84 for three, and it looked certain that for the Big Three of Indian cricket, there would be no joy at farewell at Lord’s. Panesar had tossed the ball up outside off, angling it in — Tendulkar came forward in defence, bat behind pad, the ball struck the pad in line of off stump and Steve Bucknor nodded.
Tendulkar was dismissed leg-before for the second time in the match, his total takeaway from the game being an inadequate 53. For Panesar, it must have caused a sense of déjà vu — he had dismissed Tendulkar in the same mode on debut in Nagpur last March.
That brought in Sourav Ganguly, a very different man from the one who had made 131 on debut here 11 years ago.
Now, in his final innings here, his companions over the last 11 years back in the pavilion, he faced the fight of his life to save India. He hung on till the draw of stumps, and if India are to leave London with some honour, he has to replicate that debut effort.
Rahul Dravid had also gone LBW — he stared back at the umpire, checked his stance, his face aghast. But the judgement was irrevocable, he had to walk. His final Test innings at Lord’s, his final attempt to win — or save, if you will — a game at the game’s self-proclaimed home was over.
In the crucible of Lord’s, in the three Indian masters’ last innings at Lord’s, the most reliable of them had fallen, and the team’s hopes were severely diminished.
In walked Tendulkar, the second master, the most senior of them all, to huge applause. The task before him and the team was mammoth, India needed 325 more to win the match, or bat out three-and-a-half sessions of play. Tendulkar had batted with a purpose and intent, with a positive frame of mind — there were two lovely fours to begin with: a cover-drive off Panesar and a flick off Tremlett beating two diving men. But Tendulkar could add just another four before he was sent back by Panesar, and England’s stock rose.
At the other end, Dinesh Karthik was left shaking his head at the catastrophe — he himself had batted with aggression and intent, but had seen three wickets fall at the other end — the end to India’s troubles seemed dreadful to contemplate. He did get his half-century, a sparkling effort, but there’s a long way to go yet.
India are fighting for a draw at best.
In a match hitherto dominated by part players, the stage was set for a man to step in and impose himself upon the match, direct his team’s fortunes, leave his imprint on the game.
England had lost three wickets to RP Singh in the morning, at 132/5, they were just 229 ahead and the match was poised evenly.
Then Pietersen took charge. In the hour after lunch, England added 90 runs off only 14 overs as Pietersen started spanking the ball to all corners of the ground. In an hour, that changed the game and ended India’s hopes. At one stage, Pietersen took 32 runs from three overs — smashing Anil Kumble to a six and two fours in one over. The second four got him to his century, his second at Lord’s in the season, and India were in deep trouble.
Pietersen did not allow his partner Matt Prior a single delivery in those three overs.
Pietersen and Prior added 119 for the sixth wicket in 25 overs, the game had changed. After that mad 60 minutes, Zaheer Khan got Prior off the first ball after drinks, and Tremlett off the second. Ryan Sidebottom averted the hat-trick.
At the other end, Pietersen saved his breath for a final assault, refusing singles and twos. Finally, when he went for a big shot, he only managed to edge RP Singh on to his stumps. A stupendous effort was over, the innings that singed India was ended, but India's troubles were only going to increase.
That did not look the way ahead after the first hour — RP Singh had dismissed Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood and Bell, and India looked to be coming back into the game. At lunch, India had restricted England to 161 for five.
Singh was bowling quick, swinging the ball both ways and using the short ball to great effect. His dismissal of Collingwood stood out — the batsman was surprised by the speed with which the ball made for his eyes and took evasive action; the ball hit his left glove and lobbed into the slips. Two wickets for two runs for Singh in four balls.
It got better 18 runs later when Bell fell, playing on. Singh leapt high in the air, brandished his fist right in Bell’s face, who watched transfixed before departing with the utmost reluctance.
Another wicket would have made things very interesting, but Prior put his head down and defied India. Pietersen took charge and India lost the way.
Things can only get worse.
England 1st innings 298
India 1st innings 201
England 2nd innings
Strauss c Tendulkar b Zaheer 18
Cook lbw b Zaheer 17
Vaughan b RP Singh 30
Pietersen b RP Singh 134
Collingwood c Laxman b RP Singh 4
Bell b RP Singh 9
Prior c Dhoni b Zaheer 42
Tremlett b Zaheer 0
Sidebottom c Dravid b Kumble 9
Panesar lbw b RP Singh 3
Anderson not out 4
(b-9, lb-1, w-2) 12
Fall of wkts
: 1-40, 2-43, 3-102, 4-114, 5-132, 6-251, 7-251, 8-266, 9-275.
: Zaheer Khan 28-6-79-4, S. Sreesanth 16-3-62-0, RP Singh 16.3-3-59-5, Anil Kumble 17-3-70-1, Sachin Tendulkar 1-0-2-0.
India 2nd innings
Jaffer c Pietersen b Anderson 8
Karthik batting 56
Dravid lbw b Tremlett 9
Tendulkar lbw b Panesar 16
Ganguly batting 36
(b-8, lb-3, nb-1) 12
Total (3 wickets) 137
Fall of wkts: 1-38, 2-55, 3-84.
Bowling: Sidebottom 6-1-20-0, Anderson 12-3-36-1, Tremlett 10-1-29-1, Panesar 13-2-41-1.